A review by Docs & the World and Banc del Temps del Berguedà.
Neoliberal individualism is dying. It will try to fight its last violent battles, but it can’t offer anything to those who don’t belong to the circle of the famous 1% of the richest and their closest collaborators and servants. What remains to be seen is if civilization as we know it will disappear as well -there are some harrowing prospects of it in the foreseeable future- or if humankind will be able to create new forms of social, economic, and ecological relations. There are already millions of people across the world building new ways of collective existence, based on cooperation rather than on competition. Some of these efforts are incompatible with monetary economy, others are complementary and can coexist with it. Among the latter, one of the most inspiring is Time Banking, the subject of this film.
Made exclusively of interviews to participants in Time Banks, Time as Money shows the ideological and operational guiding principles of these local associations. They consist of people who organize themselves in order to exchange services -which can include repairing and adapting clothing, gardening, cooking or teaching informatics- without using money, giving and receiving time as exchange unit of measure. Someone who offers a service gets a positive balance of hours -2, 5 or whatever amount of time he or she has devoted to an activity-, while the person receiving a service gets a negative balance of hours; the sum of positive and negative hours gives each member’s total balance.
Many aspects of this cooperative system are underlined and explained by interviewed participants. Exchanges aren’t direct, but are embedded in the global dynamics of each Time Bank: if John gives a 4 hours service to Mary, is not necessary for Mary to offer necessarily a service to John: she may offer it instead to Gabriel, and Gabriel to Iris, and Iris to John and Mary… The point isn’t to establish a one-to-one, direct system, but to build a community, a cooperative network, a synergy where all the participants may integrate, and which turns out to be greater than the sum of the parts.
Another relevant aspect is that all the hours have the same value, whether they come from a doctor, a welder, a translator, or a caregiver for the elderly. Everybody gives and gets time in the interactions, without differences nor preferences: everybody’s contribution is valued in the same way, on the same scale.
Some conclusions can be drawn from what the many participants tell us about this new way of interact with others through positive action:
The main point of Time Banking, even more than provide members with services, is to build community. To help to come out from the painful individualism in which capitalism has closed people, to weave a network of interconnected people. This community is build up not through ideology, but through direct, concrete action.
Time Banking eliminates the exclusion system typical of capitalism. Nobody is marginalized. Nobody is declared useless, worthless, nor unfit. Everybody has some capacity that may be necessary, or at least useful, to another person. The new way of interaction is inclusive because it doesn’t follow economic exclusionary parameters, but is based and focused on real, alive people’s needs and aspirations.
Involvement in Time Banking is vitalizing. It allows participants to quit the vertical hierarchic structures of conventional labor market, where everybody is subordinated and owes his or her category and value to a position in the career ladder, and to enter a new sort of social and personal relations, where all are valuable, necessary and respected. People declared dispensable by capitalist economy, even regarded as a burden on society because they were unemployed, become active, positive members of a dynamic community. And everybody who decides to join a Time Bank discovers that he or she can offer some unsuspected services, because there are many gifts, talents or skills nobody thinks of, since they aren’t demanded nor valued by the economic system. In capitalist economy, a plumber, a carpenter, a mason, a doctor, a computer specialist are only, on the one hand, people who sell their professional skills for money, and, on the other hand, consumers, nothing more. In Time Banking anybody can be anything, as long as it is helpful to others.
People declared dispensable by capitalist economy, and even regarded as a burden on society because they were unemployed, become active, positive members of a dynamic community.
Exchanges in Time Banks are horizontal, multidirectional, and dynamics, as opposed to charity and assistance administrative systems, which maintain vertical, static, unidirectional, dependent relations (there is somebody helping from above and somebody being helped below, and the papers are never exchanged).
Nobody who thinks to be better than the others, or that simply prioritizes him- or herself arbitrarily, can be a participant in Time Banking. To become a member it is necessary to have reflected on ones position in the community, in the general order of things.
People recovers the sense of gratitude for others’ actions. In conventional economic interactions, commodities and services are bought with money, according to a stipulated, impersonal price scale where human factor is all but absent. In the interactions among Time Bank participants each person offers voluntarily an ability, some knowledge to someone who values it in a free, ethic action.
It is a rewarding activity from the outset. As opposed to most economic activities, where what matters is the number of sales, of users, etc. -that is to say, objective results to reach profits and this sort of things-, Time Banks work well even with few people, from the beginning. Since they are positive for all those involved, the mere fact of pertaining to them provides in itself an ethic, vital reward. There is no need to keep counting participants: the existing ones in each moment form a valuable group, no matter how many of them there are. If the Time Bank grows, interaction possibilities will increase proportionally. And since each participant offers his or her best skills, spirits are high. That’s why personal relations are of trust, and good humor prevails. People prefers to organize cheerful community gatherings, such as a collective lunch, rather than serious meetings to deal with abstract topics.
To sum up, in creating of local, rooted communities of people who decide to stop being anonymous and unknown to each other and to become real and known, to carry out ethic actions in the context of a connective network of mutual, shared responsibility, participants build trust: in others, in oneself, in present and even in future. The trust of conscious action displaces the hope of scared, punished passivity. It is precisely owing to this trust that this documentary could be made through the collaborative system of services provided by Time Banking, without any previous budget.
Certainly, Time as Money is an optimist film, that underlines the positive features of Time Banks and doesn’t dwell on the problematic aspects which inevitably -as groups of human individuals- they must have. It must be difficult to achieve the perfect equality among participants, without cultural or ability differences creating levels or sections. It isn’t clear -but perhaps it wasn’t necessary to make it so clear- if Time Banks aim to be an alternative to monetary economy or just to be a supplement, to care for some unattended spaces and people -services to people with reduced mobility, for instance- leaving the basis of the system untouched. It could be that each Time Bank has a different approach, that some of them cover broader fields of activity than others.
Anyway, Time as Money is worth seeing to know in the voices of participants themselves the many vitalizing, empowering experiences made possible by this interactive system. After watching the film, you will probably want to join the nearest Time Bank or, if there isn’t any in your area, to create a new one.
Website TimeBanks USA: http://timebanks.org/
Website Timebanking UK: http://www.timebanking.org/
|Running length:||71 minutes|